Melissa Navia Talks “Incredible Things” For ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Season 3

Production on season 3 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is underway in Toronto, but actress Melissa Navia had Saturday off and spent the day at the ST-SF convention in San Francisco. She dropped some hints about season 3, talked about her hopes for Lt. Erica Ortegas, and described how being at the helm of the USS Enterprise has been an inspiration to others and herself.

Season 3 hype and Moretegas?

Melissa kicked off her panel discussion by hyping up the work being done now on season 3:

“I’m also a huge fan of the show… I love our cast. Our crew is fantastic. And we have incredible things coming your way that we are working on diligently, secretively, quietly. And that is what I am headed back to.”

Melissa Navia at ST-SF 2024 (Photo: TrekMovie)

The actress was careful not to talk spoilers but she got a few questions about her character getting more development. When one fan asked if there are stories or sides to the character she hopes to explore, Navia said:

“Yes… The reason I’m only saying that is just because I’m always very careful because we are in the middle of filming. So I have to be very just aware of what I say. But to all of that, yes, absolutely! I will say this. As an actor, the best compliment you can get is when somebody has seen your character and they want to see more of that character. What do you want is: Let’s see less of her. Don’t want that… I’m right with you guys. I want to learn more about Ortegas. I want to know what makes her tick and what she’s been through. And we definitely saw glimpses of that in season 2… So, I will say to your question, yes, I want to see so much more and I will just end it with, yes.”

When asked specifically if season 3 includes an Ortegas-focused episode, the actress again answered very carefully:

“To that as well, I can’t say anything. I say nothing. But I am so glad you asked that question. You guys ask wonderful questions but I can say nothing, I have eyes on me at all times.”

There was one hypothetical she was willing to talk about, indicating this isn’t something we can expect in season 3: what she thinks Mirror Erica Ortegas would be like. Navia was excited about the possibilities:

“You wouldn’t want to mess with her. I would love that. Especially because I’ve never really played any villains and I would love to do that. I can’t even fully articulate how it would look… I think she would be a force to be reckoned with and I wouldn’t want to go up against her. For me, that would be fantastic as an actor to play that. There is something about a villain that is captivating, as well as that dark side. So I don’t know what it would look like but it would be pretty great and I hope the writers are thinking about something like that in the future.”

Melissa Navia as Ortegas in episode 204, “Among The Lotus Eaters” (Paramount+)

Proud to be playing Latina… and with that hair

A longtime Star Trek fan talked about how he has watched each new show over the years and has loved the inclusion, but also felt left out, asking “Where is the Hispanic person?” until Ortegas with “Yes, finally.” He asked the actress what this aspect of Ortegas bring to the character. Navia showed how proud she was to play the role that matched her own heritage:

“When I booked the role and saw the breakdown, and it was exactly what you see on screen: the name of the character, that she was a pilot, she was a soldier, that she’s funny and she’s competent, and she was Latina, which I loved. For so much of my career there has been a stereotypical idea of what that looks like… So often you get that you are ethnically ambiguous, and then you can play a number of different roles, which is great, but there is also this frustration that I am also Latina. And this is the way I look and [with] Latinos, there is a whole spectrum of things. There isn’t one way to be Latino. So the fact that this role was that and all these other cool aspects, I was very excited about that. And then hearing from people and realizing how big it is to see me at the helm of the Enterprise, then I started to really kind of process it. I can only imagine I’m making my grandparents very proud. I know, my parents are incredibly proud of me. I’m very proud of my Colombian heritage… So I just like hearing from fans who are happy to see Erica at the helm and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I hope you can see yourself in that as well.’ And I want to continue to bring aspects of that into the character, which the writers have been wonderful about wanting to do that.”

Navia was also asked about Ortegas’ distinctive hair and she revealed it was a choice she made before she got the role—and she was very happy she was able to keep it:

“About three months before I booked Star Trek, I asked my hairstylist to give me this haircut. And there’s proof of it on my Instagram. I just wanted something different. And my rep at the time thought that it was too specific. He wanted to be able to send me out for the role of Boring Person Number 1,2,3. I don’t know. So I’m trying to give myself the most opportunity, so I guess I will go back to a pixie cut and then three weeks later I booked this role. Then we were talking about haircuts and they sent me some ideas and I was like, ‘Hey’ and so we are back here.”

And here is that Instagram post from March 2021 of Melissa showing off her new hairstyle before getting the role in SNW…


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A post shared by Melissa Navia (@mcnavia)

Ready to fly with Michael Dorn

Navia also revealed that playing Ortegas has led her to start learning to become a pilot:

“Part of it was obviously for this role. But people say this role has inspired them to become a pilot and I would be like, ‘That’s awesome… Wait a minute, I can also become a pilot.’ I’ve always had a great love of flying. I’ve never been afraid of flying. I love flying. And I think it’s one of the coolest things that we do as human beings. And every time I’ve ever met a pilot, they’re always incredibly calm, and they seem confident they seem cool. And I want to be that. Ortegas is like that I am not always like that.”

Navia revealed at the Saturn Awards she talked about flying with Michael Dorn, who has been flying for years and owns several planes. He offered to give her tips, which is inspiring her to finish her training, “Now I have to become a pilot so I can follow up with Michael Dorn!”

How fans helped her through a loss

Melissa often talks about her late partner Brian Bannon, who passed away in late 2021. She said that while they were shooting the second season in 2022, Star Trek fans helped fill an important void he left behind:

“When season 1 premiered we were filming season 2. And when we got to see the fans’ reactions online, it was really, really special. For me, I had just lost my partner. He was with me for all of season 1 filming in Toronto, which was on lockdown during the pandemic, so he was my everything. So what you got to see in season 1 was thanks to him. And hearing what fans loved about Ortegas as we were filming season was so helpful and beautiful to me because it was the thing that Brian had told me always. And you guys were basically telling me what he’s always said that he sees. So when I heard it from fans it was almost like he was still telling me and I was hearing it from a whole new group of friends… I just felt so much love from the community, from the fandom. I was in Australia and New Zealand in October, and it felt like I’ve been in that part of the world forever, because I was surrounded by Star Trek fans. It really is a family.”

Melissa Navia at ST-SF 2024 (Photo: TrekMovie)

Production on the 10-episode third season of Strange New Worlds began in December of last year and should wrap up by May. Paramount has not yet announced a release date.

More to come from ST-SF

Stay tuned for more from the convention. And check out our previous report with Voyager’s Robert Picardo talking about returning in Prodigy season 2.

Find more Trek convention news and reports at TrekMovie.

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I hope she gets that stand alone episode. She is the last in the main cast to get one and that tease last season was wrong. I also love her enthusiasm for Star Trek. She seems to genuinely love her role!

I think the episode with everyone forgetting their memories was supposed to be the big Ortegas episode before it was weirdly altered to become a Pike-centric episode. The only real thing we learned about Erica in that episode was that she flies the ship… which we already knew. I suspect that the producers simply aren’t interested in her character.

True they have their favorites. La’an, Kirk and Spock are at the top of the list for best character development or the very least the most scenes outside of Pike. Although I don’t think Pike’s development has always worked that well. Everyone else falls way below them IMO. Hopefully this 3rd season starts improving on that.

I love how present and how vivid Navia makes Ortegas! She’s made Ortegas feel more real to me in only 20 episodes than Detmer does in twice as many. Kudos to Melissa Navia!

The writers, producers and editors on Discovery also deserve some blame for this. Character development for the minor characters on Discovery have never been a top priority and that’s unfortunate but not unusual where Star Trek is concerned. I am glad to see SNW is doing better with those issues but they can still improve.

That’s true, but Ortegas felt real to me in a way that Detmer never has long before the writers gave her any character development.

I disagree that it is not unusual for Star Trek, it’s very unusual. To me, all of the legacy shows, and even most of the current shows are true ensembles. Discovery is the obvious outlier. Name another show that is so discourteous to its bridge crew. On all the other shows, I knew something about everyone by the end of the first season. In Discovery, I think Detmer was the only name I knew by the end of the first season. I don’t think I knew Bryce, Rhys or Owosekun until halfway through season 2, and even then it was only their name. Even now I sometimes can’t remember which one is Bryce and which one is Rhys.

I’d love to see her in an Enemy Mine-style episode, since a lot of what we’ve seen from her so far are her preconceived notions about Vulcans, Klingons, Gorn, Romulans, etc. It would be cool to see her learn to change those notions through getting to know someone better.

Yes! Prejudice is NOT a good look in a Starfleet officer, so I’d love to see an episode that gets her over that.

Classic Trek trope that can pay dividends when they pitch it right.

I think she’s one of the strongest of the new characters Trek has given us since Kurtzman & Co. took over. Ortegas reminds me of a more restrained, good-natured Lt. Vasquez, wonderfully portrayed by Jenette Goldstein in 1986’s Aliens. I wonder if the latter serves as an inspiration for the former at all. Ms. Navia does a good job, and very sorry to hear of her loss.

Vasquez was the inspiration for Yar, though Yar was named ‘macha’ hernandez at that point, and would have been played (god knows how unsuccessfully) by Sirtis. Fortunately they switched Crosby and Sirtis’ roles and changed the security chief’s name and heritage.

Personally I think TNG would have benefited from a Hudson (Bill Paxton)-style character, to make things a little less stuffy on the ship. Certainly DS9 should have been able to go that route.

I think she’s one of the strongest of the new characters Trek has given us

Huh? She barely even HAS a character. She spends two seasons sitting at the helm making quips. She’s the least developed character on SNW.

She’s had a B-story, but not an A-story and that’s a shame. But to be fair, they have had to service the lead characters (Pike, Spock, Una) as well as the legacy characters (Uhura, M’Benga, Chapel and Kirk), the quasi-legacy character (La’an) and the recurring character played by the well-known actor (Pelia). So there really isn’t a lot of air time left.

That still makes her more interesting than some of the principals, in my eyes at least.

I don’t like that she seems to be among the most anachronistic/contemporary of them, but since Pike is the worst offender in that regard, well …

Agreed, and that speaks to a bigger problem in the writer’s room, imo.

She hasn’t been given much character development, but Navia makes her vivid and present, even in the scenes where she has no lines. Most helmspeople just sit there, staring dully ahead unless they have lines, but Navia makes Ortegas fully inhabit every scene she’s in. I’m no actress, so I don’t know what she’s doing, but I love how present she feels.

love to this human!!!

Well, she’s hardly going to tease “utterly shit things” for season three…lest that include her character’s untimely exit.

Great coverage of actress Melissa Navia. Much Thanks.

“Where is the Hispanic person?”

Um… B’Elanna Torres would like a word with you, as a Hispanic character was one of the main stars of VOYAGER. Sure, she looked like a Klingon, but she was played by Roxann Dawson Caballero and her father was John Torres, played by Juan Garcia. Santiago Cabrera as Cristóbal Rios on PICARD would also like a word with you. Two Hispanic actors have held main Star Trek roles–and both of them had so much more to do as a character than Ortegas. So I have no idea what that complaint is even about.

And Robert Beltran . . . he is of Mexican ancestry as well.

You’re right! So that’s three major cast members before her that are Hispanic. It’s weird, too, because Beltran and Cabrera were on Star Trek AT THE SAME TIME as Strange New Worlds, on Prodigy and Picard. So how could the actress and the person who was speaking to her think she’s the first? it’s explicable, Plus, of the four characters, hers is by far the least realized and least developed, so from an historical Star Trek perspective, there’s nothing at all significant about her being Latina.

I suppose as a Native American I’m supposed to be happy with that random guy in badly done headdress in TMP and Chakotay who was written by people whose Native advisor was a fraud? Hmm? Leaving aside that Wesley’s final TNG episode was just about the most insulting thing the franchise has done towards Native culture, and the Paradise Syndrome has a few hundred offensive things in it.

How about Ensign Walking-Bear from TAS?

Worse than the guy in TMP. Worse than Code of Honor.

Geez, and I thought THUNDERHEART was kinda iffy …

Just curious, what was insulting about that final Wesley episode? Besides being pretty dull, which is what I remember it being. I think I watched it only once or twice, so I can’t recall how Natives were portrayed in it.

The very idea that we would be forced off of Earth, and then forced out of a new home again. The entirety of the episode is the problem. The inability to accurately portray any tribes and the insult of casting THE ONE ACTUAL NATIVE in the episode as a disguise for the Traveller.

The casting of a Hispano actor as a Native is inexcusable.

However, on “Journey’s End,” I recall nothing to suggest the Native colonists were “forced” off of Earth; they chose to leave because they felt they could build a more authentic community in a colony, just like the Scottish in “Sub Rosa.”

Oh and before anyone says it. There is zero real world chance of the Native Americans abandoning Earth willingly.

There is zero real world chance of the Native Americans abandoning Earth willingly.

In the abstract, sure. But…300 years is a lot of time. Things change. (For starters, it appears there was a nuclear war on Earth.) Cultures and religions are also malleable.

For example, the concept of an Islamic state was alien — some would say anathema — to shi’i Islam until, in 1979, it suddenly wasn’t.

Yep, totally agreed here.

TNG also had several reoccurring or prominent Hispano characters, including Sonya Gomez, Martinez (implied to be deputy CMO), Anaya, and Quinteros.

They never really played up B’Elanna’s human heritage at all on Voyager. Ditto Harry. Although based on how they dug into mystical stereotypes around Chakotay, it is probably for the best. Last thing we needed was Torres reminiscing about all the piñatas she’d smashed as a child or Kim stinking up the mess hall with his kimchi recipe. It was nice to see their representation in casting as competent officers, but it was quite a contrast at the time with Sisko proudly displaying his Yoruba art collection while lounging in African- inspired casual clothing.

I’ve been craving representation that’s less surface than what Voyager did or what Disco does with the bridge crew, though you have to make it feel authentic not just for the cultures being represented but also for the futuristic setting these characters are in.

We have such lovely humans who our Star Trek actors and Melissa Navia defiantly among them. It’s was a delight seeing her at ST-SF. This was my first Star Trek Convention and I had a blast. For those of you who haven’t gone to one I highly encourage to go if you can. It’s like coming home for the first time.

I was there too, and it was great to see Melissa. I was bummed to not be able to ask her a question during the panel, as the line got cut off with the person ahead of me being the final question (which ended up being that one she wasn’t able to answer anyway!) but my girls and I had a great time regardless. If you saw the cosplay contest, I was Thomas Riker with my girls Data and the Vulcan tactical officer. :D

I find Ortega to be one of the best characters introduced in “NuTrek” Ortega is simply amazing, such a bad-ass, is SO good flying the ship, and she has FUN doing it. The character is … fascinating. Her best line: “I FLY THE SHIP.” Yes she does.

I’m not sure if this is sincere or parody. In my view she’s the Travis Mayweather of SNW. She flies the ship…but that’s it. Any number of nameless ensigns can fly the ship. All she has to her character are sarcastic quips and an omni-smirk. She wouldn’t last two seconds on Picard or Kirk’s Enterprise…they wouldn’t tolerate the constant and unprofessional backchat. She’s a terrible character, truly.

Uh … Ro?

Well, Ro didn’t ultimately last on Picard’s Enterprise, either, did she?

But it wasn’t due to other characters not tolerating her insolence.

I’m sincere. The energy she brings to the show is amazing, and the ways she has flown the Enterprise (fox example, twin phaser beam to blast a hole in an asteroid so she could fly the ship through it — amazing).

Mayweather was given much more to do than Ortegas: “Detained,” “Fortunate Son,” “Dead Stop,” and “The Seventh,” just off the top of my head.

I Agee, but Mayweather was more professional and likable

Where is the Hispanic person?”

Well, Ortegas is supposedly based on Jose Tyler (who was originally supposed to be named Ortegas until they cast a blond guy), who being from Brazil I suppose was technically Lusitanian, but still. Of course there have been others, like Erica Hernandez.

Took us *years* before we had anyone even vaguely Jewish, of course.